Light Reading

Uber Thumbs a Wireless Ride With AT&T

Dan Jones
5/29/2014
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Private car ordering service Uber is hooking up with AT&T, with the operator acting as a key US wireless services provider for drivers and pre-loading the app on Android phones it sells from this summer.

Startup Uber describes the tie-up as "a first-of-its-kind alliance" in a blog. AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) will be one of Uber's "key providers of new wireless service to drivers" on the platform, which is available in more than 60 US cities. Uber has expanded service to 100 cities worldwide following its massive $258 million funding round in August 2013. (See Baby, You Can Fund My Car: Uber Drives August VC.)

And it's looking for further backing: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said during a Recode Conference session Wednesday that the startup is looking to raise more money.

Uber is facing revitalized competition from rival startup Lyft, which closed a $250 million investment round in April. (See Lyft Drives Mobile VC Funding to $1.4B in April.)

For AT&T, the Uber engagement is yet another sign of its desire to be at the heart of the growing connected car ecosystem. The operator is currently working with GM, Audi, Tesla, Volvo, BMW, Nissan and others on connected car platforms, services and applications. (See AT&T Makes GM Cars a Data Plan Add-On and Volvo: AT&T HSPA+ Can Drive My Car.)

— Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, Light Reading

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SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 10:30:20 AM
partnership details
I'm not sure I understand what all the partnership entails. Uber is run from a smartphone, which AT&T (and others) already provide connectivity to, so how it is improving that for taxi drivers? Is it powering the TVs and POS devices in the backseat too (although that's not Uber...)?
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 11:34:25 AM
Re: partnership details
Probably more about getting the Uber app onto vast numbers of new Android phones. :-)
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 11:48:13 AM
Re: partnership details
I've had a lot of Uber drivers with iPhones too, but I suppose Android is an easier place to start. Nice for UberX drivers as well.
DanJones
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DanJones,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 12:03:11 PM
Re: partnership details
They preloading the app across new Android phones sold from the summer.
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 12:06:09 PM
Re: partnership details
Right. I think that will benefit Uber moreso than the drivers, as a lot more people will discover it now. Having it preloaded makes it more likely to get used than a competing service like Hailo.
Phil_Britt
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Phil_Britt,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/29/2014 | 12:59:21 PM
Re: partnership details
I'm not sure how prevalent Uber drivers with Android devices are in other cities. The Craiglist ad in the Chicago area specifies iPhones.
briandnewby
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briandnewby,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/29/2014 | 1:35:19 PM
Re: partnership details
@SReedy I had the same question.

There are other elements of networks, too, I suppose.  When I was at Sprint Wholesale, John Donovan (then a consultant, now AT&T) pushed kind of an enabler concept with us, and so I guess there's that.  AT&T still has local and long-distance assets, although I can't see how they'd be used, really, in this example.

If it's just about phone real estate, hmmm.  I mean, the app can be downloaded pretty easily.

If it's just marketing spin, which is what it feels like, I guess that's good, too--"Hey, look urban hipsters, we're so hip our phones come with the apps you need, like Uber."

It's just odd, though, in that I doubt AT&T needs Uber's brand to sell phones.  Maybe the bigger picture will unfold. 
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 1:38:05 PM
Re: partnership details
Uber recruits through Craig's List? Yikes. Is that for taxi drivers or UberX?
briandnewby
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briandnewby,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/29/2014 | 1:38:08 PM
Re: partnership details
You know, one other goofy idea--such a partnership, whatever that means, could also mean that AT&T encourages employees to use Uber when traveling.  Maybe this is a reverse Uber to business sale.

Just trying :-), although if they aren't doing this kind of thing with large companies, I think they should.  Being able to market to large companies' employees might be a clever way to gain critical mass in order to have more weight when fighting cities' taxi regulations.
SReedy
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SReedy,
User Rank: Blogger
5/29/2014 | 1:39:16 PM
Re: partnership details
I think Uber needs AT&T more than AT&T needs it, but I agree it's a bit strange. What do you mean by the "enabler concept"?
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